L’art subtil du commentaire-critique

On me demande souvent quels sont les critères que j’utilise quand j’écris des critiques (reviews) de livres ou de films. En fait, j’utilise les même critères que j’ai développé au cours des années alors que j’écrivais des critiques d’abord pour Samizdat (un fanzine de science-fiction et fantastique québécois, 1987-1994) et, par la suite, pour Protoculture Addicts (un magazine sur la culture, le dessin animé et la bande-dessinée japonaise, 1987-2008). J’ai été rédacteur-en-chef pour ce dernier pendant plus d’une vingtaine d’années et ce sont ces même critères auxquels je demandais à mes collaborateurs d’adhérer. Je vais donc profiter de la présente occasion pour vous expliquer un peu comment je procède. Et je suggère à quiconque qui désire écrire des critiques de suivre ces quelques lignes directrices.

J’aimerais d’abord définir la critique comme étant un simple commentaire et non pas une critique analytique. Cette dernière cherche à étudier, en profondeur, les moindres aspects d’une oeuvre: les motivations des personnages, les choix narratifs, le message de l’auteur, etc. Une simple critique, quant à elle, n’est qu’un commentaire qui se veut ni objectif, ni constructif, ni négatif : c’est juste une opinion, un ressenti, que l’on exprime. On aime ou on aime pas, et on tente d’expliquer pourquoi, en décortiquant brièvement les impressions que l’oeuvre nous a laissé.

Je préfère d’ailleurs parler de “commentaire” et non de “critique” car ce dernier terme fait plus pompeux et peut aisément être confondu avec son cousin analytique. Un commentaire donne une impression plus modeste. On ne cherche pas a donner de leçon mais simplement à dire ce qu’on en pense. Dans le cas d’un livre, on pourrait parler de commentaire de lecture mais comme on peut commenter aussi des documents audio-visuels (des BD ou des manga, des films (vu au cinéma, en Dvd, ou Blu-ray), ou même de la musique (concert, CD)) je préfère m’en tenir simplement à “commentaire.” Bien sûr, l’approche sera un peu différente selon le type d’ouvrage  que l’on commente (livre, cinéma, musique).

Une autre question que j’entend parfois c’est “pourquoi se donner la peine de faire un commentaire” alors que l’on pourrait bien se contenter d’apprécier une oeuvre pour ce qu’elle est sans trop se poser de question. Je dois avouer que pour moi c’est plus une déformation professionnelle. J’ai écrit tellement de commentaires pour les publications pour lesquelles je travaillais que maintenant je ne peux pas m’empêcher d’analyser et de penser à ce que je ressens au fur et à mesure que je progresse dans le livre que je lis ou dans le film que je visionne. Et tant qu’à avoir des idées ou des opinions, pourquoi ne pas les partager? Car la raison fondamentale d’un commentaire c’est cela: partager ses coups de coeur (ou de foudre!), son amour (ou parfois son aversion) pour une oeuvre, ou simplement donner son opinion. Parfois, aussi, il s’agit de vouloir aider les autres à comprendre et à mieux apprécier une oeuvre ou, tout au moins, à partager la façon dont nous percevons une oeuvre (à travers le prisme de nos expériences personnelles, de notre savoir, de notre vécu). Si nous sommes passionné par un sujet, il est tout naturel de vouloir partager cette passion. Le lecteur (du commentaire) en fera bien ce qu’il veut…

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How to save the planet

You’re feeling good because you think you are saving the environment by recycling and switching to LED light bulbs? Well,  don’t (feel good, I mean). It is totally useless.

Last week-end, I read an interesting article in The Gazette titled “Want to save the planet?” (also from the National Post via PressReader). A study by the University of British Columbia is showing that what we are told to do to reduce climate change is rarely the most effective way.  We’re told that “making a difference doesn’t have to be difficult” when, in truth, making a real impact demands some major sacrifices!

The most interesting part of the article is found in a graphic that was available only in the print version. What high school textbooks suggest students to do for the environment is not very effective: using reusable shopping bags instead of plastic ones represent only a saving of 0.005 tonne (5 kg) of carbon dioxide per person per year, while upgrading light bulbs saves 0.1 tonne, hanging your laundry to dry in the sun saves 0.21 tonne, recycling saves 0.213 tonne and washing your clothes in cold water saves 0.247 tonne. Small changes.

In opposite, the more effective actions for helping the environment represents only four per cent of the suggestions given to students. The best tactics are eating less meat with a plant-based diet (saving of 0.8 tonne per year), buying green energy (saving 1.5 tonne per year), taking one less transatlantic flight per year (saves 1.6 tonne), and going car-free (saving 2.4 tonne per year — note that switching from an electric car to car-free saves 1.15 tonne per year and buying a more efficient car saves 1.19 tonne per year!). However, the most effective way to be environmentally friendly is to have one less child: you would save 58.6 tonne of CO2 emission per year! I always said that those kids are killing the planet.

I am really happy because I am already doing all those things (switching light bulbs, washing in cold water, hang-drying, using reusable bags, hydro-electricity, having a plant-based diet, no flying, no car, no kid) and I hope you will consider it too. I won’t go as far as some sci-fi shows and suggest, as some sort of Sophie’s Choice, that we should reduce the children population (or even the general population) — it would surely make the environment quieter — but please copulate with moderation (I would say “practice abstinence” but that would be inconsiderate: just don’t have four or five kids and think of it as a planetary-wide one-child policy)! There are already too many people on earth…

That would certainly be a good way to save the planet.

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Absurdity of the day (#02017117)

I feel I was born in a parallel universe with a completely different logic system and then absconded here for some mysterious reasons. This place doesn’t make sense at all to me as nobody seems to follow what I consider to be basic common sense. Here are two examples that I witness daily.

In this part of town, people are waiting for the bus in line from the back to the front or the concept of lining-up seems foreign to them. I know many of them are deeply religious (as they read the Bible or pray on the bus, probably going to church every Sunday) and “Jesus” told them “the last shall be first” but he meant it for the kingdom of Heaven, not here! I can’t stand such hypocrisy: they are supposed to be charitable and humble and they are the first to cut the line, steal your place or hate you for daring to stand your ground (sometimes even accusing you of being racist if you complain)! As an agnostic I feel I have more moral values than most of them.

I also don’t understand how an employer can be so callous and disrespectful toward its employees (the people who are actually making things work): I should not have to fight for compassionate leave (it has nothing to do with the collective bargaining agreement: it’s in the damn labor code!) or to work in difficult and unpleasant conditions as the work place was without any ventilation or air conditioning for several days and the room temperature was neighbouring 24 to 27.5 ? (if we were simply sitting at a desk it would probably be bearable but our work requires to be constantly standing or moving — actually, if the ideal comfort zone is defined as 21-23°C, there is NO maximum Temperature Limit set by the labor code) ! And, to add insult to injury, this week they also used the employees’ room (where we rest and take our meals) to store the stinking floor polishing equipment! It is not enough for the employer to trim our pension (unilaterally changing a negotiated agreement), cut some of our leave, reduce the staff and increase the number of tasks so we have to force the pace until we feel we are on an assembly line, but they must also show us a total lack of respect? And, after that, they still expect their employees to be loyal, enthusiastic and performing? The union is no better because, when we complain, they just do nothing (they are masters of collusion). It is inconceivable, unacceptable, completely outrageous!

I don’t understand how this could be completely normal to other people. I really must be from another world…

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Monthly notable news (W12-16)

Another month (or so) has passed at lightning speed. Lots of stuff to do, particularly now that spring has come. We had plenty of rain at first, however now the weather is more enjoyable but still a little chilly. The humidity has made my left knee (and a bit my right ankle) hurt and, for a week, my back pain came back with a vengeance — libraries can be hard work sometimes (and not only for the soul; although it can be amusing too). I also had an episode of high blood glucose and I feared I would become a full-blown diabetic but it returned to my pre-diabetic “normal” after a week. This is no work for old men…

It has been a busy month. We’ve visited the notary twice for mom’s succession paperwork and there was plenty of work around the house particularly for the garden cleaning. I also had to deal with many unexpected problems: some strange Bell bug kept me from my blog for a week and I had some leaky roof, front door handle and water heater issues (the latter two just this weekend). Installing two more Outdoor Nest Cams (as one of my cheap IP cameras died following water damage inside the window) has been a strain on the Bell Wi-Fi causing serious performance problems. I’ll probably solve this issue by going back to Videotron, but only for the internet (I’ll share my sister’s).

A question on FB made me look back at my collection of old books and share my love for them. I also purchased a new Telephoto Mirror Lens for my camera. My TV viewing habits didn’t change much. I still watch too much TV: the new season for old series (When calls the Heart, Into the Badlands, Doctor Who) but two series are particularly worth mentioning for their quality: Anne and The Expense (and its beautiful opening credits with Norwegian vocals — listen on Soundcloud and Youtube). I also wanted to go see Ghost in the Shell in theatre but the reviews were not too good so I decided to wait. However, I’ll definitely won’t miss the Valerian‘s movie when it is released!

I have always considered blogging (and writing in general) as an essential mental exercice (as much as my daily walks) to keep in shape, the mind sharp and age better. However, now I have some doubt. It sometimes feels like a strain since I have less and less time to do it. I have to split my waking hours between my wife-together time, my me-time and work (from which I always come back exhausted). Lately, I had lots of problems with the blog (the Dropbox issue, not being able to log in for an entire week) and it leaves me with the dilema of having to choose between fixing the layout on the old posts or writing new material (or try to do both and be unhappy with the result). I just wonders if it is really worth it.

Maybe I should try less to DO something and just take more time to enjoy life right now (going to movies, to the museums, to the botanical garden, READ more, etc.) without always thinking about sharing it, what I would say about it, which angle I could use to explain the subject better or tell an interesting story about the whole experience. My health won’t improve with the years and I am quite sure that there is less road in front of me than behind, so maybe I should just take the most of it and enjoy the moment. Who’s reading me anyway. Although, I often say that I am writing for myself, so I can read what I wrote one day and remember how it was (particularly when I would not remember it at all). It is just like a journal left adrift in the binary stream of time, to create some sort of posterity.

Both ways seem kind of selfish: if I do write I feel guilty of not doing more of my life and, if I don’t, I feel I am letting myself down. Either way it is a losing battle. •Sigh* It’s the age-old depressing philosophical question: Did I ever really lived and did it really matter? I can only press on and hope for the best.

Finally, I nevertheless managed to stay acquainted with the (ever so depressing) affairs of the world and gathered a few notable news & links — which I share with you (in both french or english, and roughly divided into a few thematics), after the jump.

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Absurdité du jour (#02017054)

Je viens juste de réaliser, avec tout mes problèmes du changement de Vidéotron à Bell, que j'avais un meilleur téléphone quand j'étais avec la compagnie de cable et que maintenant j'ai un meilleur service télé avec la compagnie de téléphone! Go figure

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Absurdity of the day (#02017046)

I always did my best to be a good person, to help people whenever I could or at least to never intensionally hurt someone. Therefore, it hurts me deeply to see so many people lately who are either so mean that they really don't care about the wrong they are inflicting to others or that they are so stupid that they don't even realize the harm that they are inflicting. Isn't there any good will, any justice, any fairness, any common sense left in the world? It seems that today's world is governed only by the absurd! Has this farce lasted long enough?

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Absurdity of the day (#02017040)

Everything Trump! That’s the most absurd stuff I’ve seen in years!

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President erect

Why is it wrong for a democrat to get a blowjob in the oval office or to tweet pictures of his penis, but it seems alright for a republican to brag about grabbing an unwilling pussy?

This is wrong, so wrong. What a bunch of hypocrites. Please, wake me up in four years.

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Remembrance Day

Thought for Remembrance Day

Remember! the numerous casualties of wars
Remember! that we once were canon fodder
— for some distant empire
But above all we shall now remember…
Remember! that democracy is always hard-won
— and sometimes so easily lost!

(Canon PowerShot S5 IS, National War Memorial in Ottawa, 2015-05-20)

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Vaccination des employés

Je suis tombé sur un intéressant article dans le journal 24h (section “Jobill!co – Emploi-Formation” du mardi 3 mai 2016) qui affirmait que “la vaccination en milieu de travail est de plus en plus populaire.” Je trouve que c’est une excellente idée surtout dans les secteurs où les employés côtoient le public, et encore plus si celui-ci est composé d'enfants comme c'est le cas dans les bibliothèques publiques. Cela permettrait non seulement de protéger les employés—tout en diminuant l'absentéisme, mais aussi —surtout— de protéger le jeune public.

J'aime bien ces affirmations:

Un employeur a l’obligation, en vertu de la Loi sur la santé et la sécurité du travail du Code civil du Québec et du Code criminel de s’assurer de la santé et de la sécurité de ses employés. (…)

La vaccination des employés est donc un geste de générosité et d’altruisme qui a des impacts positifs”.

Il ne faut cependant pas se leurrer: c'est une bonne idée pour le secteur privé mais cela ne fonctionnerait probablement pas dans le secteur public. Ainsi, même si je trouve que cela serait souhaitable, je doute que la Ville de Montréal n'offre un jour la vaccination à ses employés des bibliothèques publiques. Coûteux, compliqué à organiser et trop évident… pour la ville. Générosité? Altruisme? On peut toujours rêver!

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